He's my brother... but really, he's my father

As I'm sure some of you know by now... we had a bit of a tragedy in town over the weekend. And a first for me as a resident.

There was a murder in Rankin Inlet on Saturday. The woman who was killed was in her sixties. The man they have in custody was a relative of hers.

The police named the man as a son. But this is Nunavut, and family dynamics are far more complex than that.

It's not the first time I've come up against this. Personally and professionally. You really need to be careful how bitchy you are about people in this place. You never know who you are talking with is related to – either directly or indirectly.

I had a conversation with a woman today who has this theory that one cause of the “social problems” in the north is the way kids are adopted in and out with such fluidity.

I don't know if there's any truth to her theory. But I can say that the way kids are conceived and adopted and raised is very different from the way I was brought up.

If you think kids are having kids too early in the south, check out the average age in Nunavut. I think it was something like 24. Yes. Average age. Mid-twenties. And part of why that's the case I'D SAY is because when they have kids, they know they have their family (immediate AND extended) to lean on when things get tough. It's not so scary, having a kid, when your parents are going to raise it for you.

So you end up with all these very very non-nuclear family units. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Because I'm very sure that there are people out there who really and truly benefit from the whole “it takes a village to raise a child” scenario.

But then, there are others ... who end up passed around the extended family, never really knowing who their support is supposed to come from.

Don't get me wrong. I know nothing about the family situation in the situation I mentioned above. I have heard rumours, but I've tried not to give them any mind. But I have to admit, my brain is spinning a bit with the day's events... and it's scary to think a woman was killed just across town. This place isn't very big.

I have to say though, I'm surprised about the local reaction. The people I've been around don't seem all that shook up about the whole event. Shit, if there had of been a homicide in Cornwall... you'd hear people all worried for their personal safety, children would be put on tighter leashes... general over-reactions for all. But then, I guess maybe most homicides down south are random acts of violence. I don't have the stats to back this up, and maybe I'm just making this up for my own benefit, but I feel like family-violence deaths are the rarity, not the norm, back home. And that the reason why people are taking this whole thing in stride is because – god forbid – they are just USED to it.

And that's a scary thought.



lindsay Niedzielski March 24, 2009 at 12:05 PM  

I find the ease in which children are adopted up here unusual as well, and think that it may contribute to some of the issues that are faced in Nunavut. I was out last night and had two young teenaged girls ask me who my daughters' 'real' father is...I guess because it is normal for the real father not to be the man that you are with...not a normal question you would come across down south!!!

Jackie S. Quire March 24, 2009 at 12:18 PM  

Hi Lindsay, thanks for posting!

That reminds me of a similar experience I had in Coral Harbour.

I was at a community feast, and brought my camera (my way of coping with not really knowing anyone in a social situation: take photos). Now of course, cameras in Nunavut attract mad crowds of children... but soon I realized it wasn't the electronics that drew them, but the colour of my skin... and my age (I realized after a couple days in the community I was the only non-inuk woman in town... at least that I saw).

The first question on all their lips (after, of course, "what's your name") was "do you have any kids?" My response was "no, not yet."

I got a couple "why not"s and an occasional "are you pregnant?" in a response... but by and large the general reaction was that I had better have kids fast because those ovaries weren't going to be around forever.

And that's coming from kids in their early teens.

Funny eh?

Anonymous March 24, 2009 at 1:22 PM  

I'm not even sure where to start with this. Of course we find it hard to understand because it is radically different then our culture. You can be assured that Inuit find our difficulties in adoption just as curious. Cultural adoption was born out of necessity. Life up here was hard and many children were orphaned. A similar thing happened with polygamy in the early days.

But to ascribe adoption as a reason for the social ills is to make an incredible leap. You'd be hard pressed to find a family that hasn't adopted in or out of up here. Some are raised healthy, some are not. Some "natural" children are raised healthy, some are not. The same thing happens down south, trust me. Adopted or "birth" children are raised well, or they aren't. In the south the cases tend to be hidden better. There is probably little that escapes our notice in isolated communities. There is much that does in Cornwall.

That includes family violence. Why, in Cornwall, would the murder of a woman by her son (as terrible as that is) cause people to be worried for their personal safety, keep their children on tight(er) leashes. Most homicides down south are not random. By far and away in Canada murder is not done by strangers, it is done by people who know the victim, often by people who are related to the victim.

Jackie S. Quire March 24, 2009 at 1:26 PM  

Thanks for your comment, Clare. You bring up some very valid points.

I don't pretend to be an expert, not in the least. I don't have the experience (practical or learned) to say what's true and what's right in the world of adoption.

I was just presenting a point of view. I'm too busy sitting on the fence to pick a point of view of my own.


indigo March 24, 2009 at 1:31 PM  

"the way kids are conceived and adopted and raised is very different from the way I was brought up."

ahhhhhhhhh, is there a new way to make babies?

Mongoose March 26, 2009 at 5:02 PM  

I think that's a compliment about your youthful appearance though, because nobody asks me "if" I have kids. They ask me "how many kids do you have" and if I say none quite often I get not "why" but "what's wrong with you?"

That's nice. :) I think I'm gonna start saying I have eight kids. It's not quite a lie, and I'll fit in better. :)